Monday, April 20, 2015

MEN WHO GO MONDAY: God wants us just as we are.

by Justin Olson - 2015 Costa Rica team member

The name of the organization that set up this trip is called Visiting Orphans, but the compound we hung out at wasn't actually an orphanage. In spanish, the word is 'albergue' which translates to shelter/refuge. The facility was a government run transitional home for children less than one year old up to 18 years old. These kids would be removed from homes where where the parents could not provide for the children, or because it was an abusive situation where the child was not safe. In many cases the kids aren't old enough to understand why they are being taken away from their home. Needless to say, they were excited to have people to come and love them!

The group I went with had 9 people total. We were a large mix of ages - from a woman who could have been most of our mothers all the way to her 16 year old daughter! Some of us were from Minnesota, but Texas, Philly, Tennessee, North Carolina, and Illinois were represented as well. As random as our backgrounds were, God knew exactly what he was doing bringing us all together. I can't imagine what the trip would have looked like with anyone else! 

After arriving in Costa Rica late Saturday night, we spent the night near the airport. Sunday morning we met the whole group officially for the first time before starting our drive to the eastern coast. Over the mountains and through the rainforest, spotting toucans and sloths in the trees! 

Far from what I normally see in Minnesota. We arrived at the transitional home in Limon around 4PM and stopped to take a tour and see the kids for a while. There were three different houses for the different age groups – 0-1ish, 2-10, and 11-18. while we were there, there were 2 baby girls, 10+ toddlers/young kids, and 5 teenage girls. After visiting them we went to our hotel in Puerto Viejo to settle in for our stay.

Monday and Tuesday we brought crafts, stickers, a volleyball and a soccer ball to play with the kids. The girls enjoyed the crafts immensely, and the boys couldn't get enough of kicking the balls around. Our whole trip was dedicated to making the kids smile, so we did whatever they wanted to do. I even got my nails painted by a 2 year old boy and 4 year old girl! Most of us did, actually, which the kids loved. I got to be a human jungle gym and tossed/spun/dangled kids repeatedly during the day while they giggled and squealed and smiled big smiles.

Wednesday and Thursday were our event days! Wednesday morning looked like the previous two days, but when lunch time rolled around we headed to Burger King in a PACKED bus full of kids and chaperones. Inside this particular Burger King was a huge play places that we let the kids run around for a few hours after a treat of burgers and cardboard crowns. They loved it. Thursday, our last day with the kids, we spent at a pool in the area that we rented out for the day. We brought lots of water wings and other inflatable toys that let the kids learn to swim for the first time without being too scared. They loved it, and there was enough cloud cover to protect us from the sun in large part. It was a great day =)

I'll finish with a story about the moment I'll remember most about the trip.

There was a little girl at the transitional home who only had one hand. She constantly walked around hiding her stump - in her shirt, behind her back, clasped in her other hand, etc.. on our pool day, she was pushed in by another kid who was too young to understand what he was doing. She didn’t know how to swim, and immediately reached up toward Dorothea (who was already getting ready to scoop her out) with her shorter arm. The image is burned into my mind. All inhibition was gone, replaced instead with fear and desperation. It was a striking image of how we reach for God. "I need your help. I am ashamed of myself. This is all I have to offer - a broken body. Dirty rags.” And the best part is that He wants us just like we are. Wow =)